As I headed toward the bustling conference room, I could see people seated at tables and standing in clusters, holding small plates filled with finger foods, talking and laughing, enjoying the loud party music echoing throughout the venue. My steps gradually slowed. Although I normally enjoy meeting new people and networking, I had been in meetings all day and was running low on energy. I was anticipating entering a room full of people I did not know and wondering if this meet and greet would turn out to be more of a bust than a boon. My mind flashed back to those school dances I had attended as an awkward middle school student. There was nothing worse than feeling out of place and disconnected. My pulse quickened, and I suddenly felt the urge to turn around and walk back to my car and head for home. But I trudged on.
Alone and Invisible
I scanned the room, hoping to find someone I recognized. No luck. All of the tables were full, and everyone appeared to be deep in conversation. My next thought was to peruse the buffet. At least I could make some small talk for a few minutes about the crab cakes and cheese dip. But once again I found myself wishing someone would just say “hi” and strike up a conversation. It was painfully apparent to me that I had no tribe, no clique, no circle of friends in this crowded room. I felt completely alone, invisible.
And then it happened.
Someone approached me and began to ask questions about my work, my passions, my favorite places to eat around town. What a relief it was to be noticed by this stranger and to feel that someone was genuinely interested in getting to know me. I was no longer invisible.
It occurred to me later that evening that this feeling of isolation and loneliness must be common to homeless, desperate, impoverished individuals. And these individuals are not out there — they’re here, in our neighborhoods and towns, on our streets. How often do I quickly pass by people in need, not wanting to get involved, not wanting to engage in any meaningful way? My experience at the conference was a visceral reminder to me that all human beings have a deep longing to be connected, for someone to reach out and to physically demonstrate care and compassion.
“You have four choices:
- You can close your eyes to them and hope they become invisible again.
- You can assume the government—some national or local program—will provide the assistance they need.
- You can pray that the church—specifically a church that’s socially minded—will extend some measure of care for them.
- You can believe the Bible’s mandate for tendering care applies to you (and your family) and begin to extend Christian hospitality to those within your reach.”
In Acts 2:44-45, we read that the Church in its infancy was a place of connecting and sharing – “All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need.”
It’s difficult to imagine this kind of inter-dependent radical hospitality. In our comfortable society where we are encouraged to be independent and to work toward the “American dream”, our hearts quickly become calloused and our eyes grow dim to the people God wants us to see. Ashmen writes, “Entertaining is mostly about inviting people into your house. Hospitality is about inviting people into your life…it centers on the needs of others.”
I personally want to grow in my understanding and practice of radical hospitality. The kindness of a stranger at a business conference felt like a rescue to me. How many of my “invisible neighbors” are also in need of rescue?
If you want to know more, consider contacting Miracle Hill Ministries to dialogue about how you can make those connections with the “invisible” children and adults in our care. You can also go to the Invisible Neighbors website for more resources.